“Add Fun and a Little Weirdness” – 5 tips for driving innovation

There is a story about when Alexander the Great visited the renowned philosopher Diogenes. Alexander in his liberality asked Diogenes what he could do to help him and Diogenes reply (paraphrased) was “Don’t stand in my light” as Alexander’s shadow was stopping the sun from reaching him. It got me thinking about organisations who use the word innovation and who really want to drive it but who unwittingly are actually the shadows themselves stopping the growth of innovation. That’s why the topic of this blog post is 5 tips for leaders in organisations to really let the sun shine in

1.  Use the power of Social. Like it or not your employees will share and use social media. They will tweet, facebook, Linkedin and so on.  Use this habit to promote open innovation via Crowdsourcing. Open innovation allows people from all aspects of business to collaborate with ideas. You can do this either through an open web platform to gain an outside perspective, or even with only internal employees. Try having Facebook-like tools even in your workplace. You can do it as simple or as complex as you want – for example via a Facebook page.  Bear in mind that clear instructions are very important for Crowdsourcing.

2.  Bring in your customer. Involve your users in digital simulations. Companies such as Facebook, Google, and Foursquare regularly host events that for developers – for  example 150 developers mixed with Foursquare’s engineers in their hackathon some time ago. For the cost of 25 pizza and 300 cups of coffee consumed, Foursquare got 15 hours of coding and 39 new applications. I remember when a friend of mine used a service we had launched at TeliaSonera called “Friendfinder” with our thoughts that parents would use it to find their children or friends to connect with each other – my friend bought a basic mobile phone, connected it to his boat’s battery for 24/7 charging and used the service to check that his boat stayed where it should be!!

3.   Harness Passion. Too often today companies have boring mission statements and their employees see their job as something that finances their real passion – family, hobbies, travelling, animals or just making ends meet. What a terrible way to spend your life – spending between 8 to 10 hours a day 5 days a week on something you don’t really care about.  The solution is not to encourage employees to leave. The solution is to create a workplace that is inspiring and filled with people who care about and enjoy what they do. Dare to care, and to show it!  Communicate a vision that inspires, that makes people think “Hey, I want to do that”!  For example:

    • Starbucks’ vision is “to inspire the human spirit
    • Sony (1950's) "Become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products"
    • The well known Walt Disney “To Make People Happy”.   What's more inspiring - "To make people happy" or "The Walt Disney Company's objective is to be one of the world's leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products. The Company's primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital profitably toward growth initiatives that will drive long-term shareholder value".  I use this as an example that your vision and/or mission needs to be BOTH inspiring and also clear. So Walt Disney has both a mission statement but also several supporting value statements,

4. Enable time to smell the flowers. Today’s virtual world has one drawback, especially the more senior you go in large corporations  – people book meetings online, offline, via chat, mail you, create presentations, videos, word documents… On a good day I personally still have between 35-50 emails that require attention. And several several meetings.  Creativity unfortunately isn’t something you book into your calendar and think that quality output will emerge.  Maybe companies should implement a compulsory “no-meeting” day twice a month at least… or in some other manner minimize time spent in meetings and promote time spent in more productive fashions.   One practical thing that companies can do is implement meeting and travel policies that make people think twice before they travel to a different location for a meeting. I personally use our Video and Telemeeting/Webex solutions for internal meetings as much as possible, even if the meetings are just at our other office in the south of Stockholm. This saves me about one hour a day. The people I prioritise travelling for are our customers.

5. “Create fun and a little weirdness” . This is one of Zappo’s core values. Zappo.com’s essentially e-commerce business has been one of Fortune’s best 100 companies to work for 2009, 2010,2011, 2012….  Take a look at Zappo’s tweetwall   http://tweetwall.apps.zappos.com/ does it give you any ideas regarding creating fun and a little passion and indeed a little weirdness for your own company? In a very literal context, laughing creates endorphins that stimulate creativity in a positive manner. If you can create an environment where people have fun and laugh together, it stimulates creativity.

The picture below is a screenshot I took from Zappo's website, and I added the helpful red arrow for those of us who may need to rush to a meeting and dont have time to figure out the picture themself. Who would like a little Happiness in addition to 24/7 customer service?





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Written by

  • Priya

    Customer Experience and Foresight

    I work with Customer Experience and Foresight at Group Technology at TeliaSonera. Having being part of two start-up telecommunications projects and with over 17 years in telecoms after an MBA from one of India's top 10 Business Schools - its great to see the transformation in our industry. I've worked both with emerging markets and very ICT mature markets ranging from Project Management for the New Delhi Cellular Project to working with several 3G licence bids across Europe and had commercial product management, sales and marketing responsibilities as well as project management responsibilities and responsibility for our strategy towards Enterprise customers prior to this assignment. I'm a big believer in a strategy being only as good as its execution and think we live in exciting times, in the midst of a radical change in communications that sets strong demands on communications service providers and TMT (Technology, Media and Telecoms) players to distinguish themselves through customer experience and innovation.

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